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Mayor Faulconer endorses Measure C

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San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has formally announced his support for Measure C. What does it mean?

A rendering of the proposed Convention Center and Stadium
MANICA Architecture

The last major political domino has finally fallen.

After weeks of speculation and not some small amount of doubt, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has formally announced his support for Measure C, the Chargers’ plan for a new downtown joint-use stadium and convention center.

Without question, this endorsement does a fair amount to help the Chargers’ campaign for a new stadium in San Diego, but before we start popping champagne corks over Measure C, it’s worth taking a few minutes to review what Faulconer had to say, the concessions he was able to extract, and what it ultimately means for Measure C and a new Chargers stadium (not necessarily the same thing).

What Did The Mayor Say?

Here’s a snippet of his full comments. You can read his entire statement here.

Over the last several months I’ve taken a hard look at the initiative. I’ve discussed it with San Diegans, met with experts and listened to fans.

It came down to one simple fact: there must be stronger protections for taxpayers and our tourism economy in the Chargers’ plan. The City wasn’t at the table when Measure C was crafted, but San Diegans still deserve these protections. I have continued to push for them in my talks with the Chargers.

- San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer

At the end of the day, thanks to some extensive meetings with the Chargers over the last several months, Faulconer was able to secure some in-writing concessions from Chargers’ CEO Dean Spanos.

What Did The Chargers Concede On?

According to a two-page signed letter from Spanos to Faulconer, the concessions are as follows:

  1. Cap on Project Costs - Chargers agree the project will not move forward if costs funded by TOT exceed amount allocated in Chargers’ estimate.
  2. Tourism Marketing Guaranteed Full Funding - Chargers agree to Mayor’s specification that protects the full 2% TMD assessment.
  3. No Subsides from the City’s Operating Budget - Chargers agree that General Fund will not be used to fund construction or operating costs.
  4. City Receives all Non-NFL Stadium Revenue - Chargers agree that all non-NFL stadium event revenue will be directed to the City.
  5. Non-Relocation Agreement Not Shorter than Debt Repayment Term - Chargers agree that non-relocation agreement must be at least as long as the original bond repayment term.
  6. If the Chargers Relocate, City will be Reimbursed - Chargers agree to reimburse City for all pre-construction costs already expended within a pre-approved budget (apart from land acquisition) in event team relocates prior to construction start.
  7. Parking at Tailgate Park must be adequately replaced - Chargers agree to include a full replacement of Tailgate Park parking in project budget to Mayor’s Specifications.
  8. Quality of Life and Neighborhood Issues - Chargers agree that project may not proceed until neighborhood quality of life issues are fully addressed to Mayor’s specifications.

Those concessions are significant on the Chargers’ end, but there’s one crucial catch to what this letter entails. Amazingly, the No on C folks had a lucid point to make regarding these concessions.

Once a Citizen’s Initiative is submitted for consideration, the document is closed - in other words, no changes can be made to the document, regardless of any agreement between any group of people. Thus, Spanos’ letter (signed or otherwise) is not legally binding, and Spanos is under no obligation to adhere to the concessions in the event Measure C is approved by voters.

Thus, this letter is (at least) a political document designed to provide protection for Faulconer, in the event Measure C passes and Spanos reneges on the deal.

But, as we all know, Measure C requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass. Further, while Faulconer is a popular Mayor, he’s not powerful or influential enough to swing an election by 25% - 30% percentage points. Measure C is likely to fall short of the two-thirds threshold, even with Faulconer’s support.

The Work On a Stadium Deal for 2017 or 2018 has begun.

Note the following sentence in Faulconer’s statement earlier:

“The City wasn’t at the table when Measure C was crafted”

This is a pointed remark as it regards Measure C.

Now, as it regards the Chargers, they had a limited time get a plan on the ballot for 2016, especially after the negotiations between the City and County of San Diego and the Chargers over Mission Valley fell apart over differences regarding a public subsidy.

Further, it was always possible for the Chargers to simply continue without concern for Faulconer’s position. Therefore, I think the concession letter represents some of the opening agreement points on a future downtown stadium plan in San Diego.

Of course, some dominoes have to fall first before we know whether the team is staying or leaving - the Oakland Raiders potential move to Las Vegas being primary among them - but having a public document signed by Dean Spanos which outlines some initial deal framework going forward when/if Measure C falls short is crucial if San Diego gets another shot at keeping the team.

Some of Spanos’ recent comments hint toward the future following November:

“I think the percentage tells me a lot. If we only get 30 to 35 percent, that tells you one thing. If we get 60 percent that tells you something else. So I’m anxious to see what happens on November 8.”

- Chargers CEO Dean Spanos

More than anything else, Falconer’s negotiation and support for Measure C tells Spanos that the political establishment wants to work with him. Maybe not on this exact plan, but on a plan for a downtown stadium in which the public and city officials have more input (maybe hopefully something like this).

Final Thoughts

Falconer’s endorsement for Measure C comes at a crucial juncture. Absent such an endorsement, there would be a much higher degree of uncertainty regarding the team’s future in San Diego past the end of the 2016 season.

Having Faulconer on board with the Chargers is a clear indicator that Dean Spanos has a partnership with San Diego in the likely event Measure C fails to pass. More importantly, there’s an opportunity for the type of plan we’ve all been waiting on for a couple of decades.

Stay tuned.